The United Nations resolution implementing a ceasefire in West Asia should satisfy everyone except the most rabid opportunist. The satisfaction, however, is based on something extremely tenuous — the actual implementation of Resolution 1701 that calls for “full cessation of hostilities” accompanied by the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon and the simultaneous “disbanding and disarming of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias” (read: the Hezbollah). The month-long time taken by the UN to arrive at this juncture showcases the fragile nature of this enforced peace. But holding on to this peace will be the real challenge — something that could be destroyed at the drop of a needle.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s statement in the Knesset that the resolution “was good for Israel” may have resulted in the knee-jerk reaction of the Hezbollah having “reservations” about the ceasefire. But for both sides, it has been a cessation that neither is too keen on. Israeli troops are still deep inside South Lebanon and remain sceptical of the ability of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) and Lebanese army forces to flush out the Katyusha-wielding Hezbollah. The Hezbollah, on its part, sees Israel’s ‘offensive defensive’ not garnering enough condemnation in the resolution. The UN has mandated an international force to form a buffer in southern Lebanon. But this UN-led force may take weeks, even a month, to be operational and that means an extremely nervous interregnum in-between now and then.
The earlier UN Resolution 1559 passed in 2004 called for non-interference in the sovereignty of Lebanon. Syria’s and Iran’s role in tactically and strategically helping the Hezbollah put paid to that call without the international community stepping in. Resolution 1701 has been caused by the non-implementation of Resolution 1559. Whichever way one looks at it, West Asia’s flesh and spirit for peace is weak. Which means an international force with teeth needs to be doubly strong to hold the peace.